Sunday, November 03, 2013

Safety probe at airline as pilots ignore orders

The Civil Aviation Department is investigating a number of incidents in which pilots of Hong Kong Airlines disregarded instructions by traffic controllers.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said in none of the cases was passenger safety compromised, but that even one incident is one too many.

The department yesterday confirmed a report it has asked the airline to submit a report on its safety. This was after its flights were involved in nine incidents.

They included pilots taxiing onto the runway at Hong Kong International Airport without permission and failing to follow instructions from traffic controllers between August and September.

Seven of the incidents were technical infringements committed by pilots who did not follow instructions on maintaining altitudes and directions.

Two incidents were related to pilots deviating from instructions. On August 8, the pilot misunderstood a clearance given to another flight for takeoff.

The department said the flight had entered the taxiway and was found out by air traffic controllers. "As there was no other plane on the runway, the flight was allowed to proceed for takeoff for reasons of safety," a spokeswoman said.

In another incident on August 20, a flight to Singapore wrongly interpreted an instruction from traffic controllers.

The pilots took a right turn when asked not to turn right.

Asked about the various incidents, Cheung said: "From my viewpoint, one incident is still one too many. I hope that airlines can strictly abide by guidelines as they involve the safety of flights."

Cheung said there are clear requirements stating the distance and altitudes between flights.

Between September 2012 and August this year, the department recorded 20 incidents in which pilots did not follow instructions.

A spokeswoman for Hong Kong Airlines said last night that they have always put flight safety as top priority, adding that the incidents mentioned were either caused by weather conditions, similar flight numbers and other factors.

She stressed the incidents posed no flight safety implication, and that it has already submitted an improvement report to the department.


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